A shorter, edited version of this interview appears on the IDG Connect Marketers blog.
Social selling lives at the interaction of sales and marketing and Jill Rowley has become one of its most public and vocal proponents. Jill started her sales career at Salesforce.com in 2000 when it was a start-up and she was new to selling; she says, “I didn’t even know what ‘carrying a bag’ meant!” She then went on to Eloqua and was the EloQueen — consistently their #1 or #2 rep. After Eloqua was acquired by Oracle she took on the task of training the 23,000-person Oracle sales force on social selling. Now she is on her own consulting on social business strategy and planning, and speaking to companies and at conferences.
Louis: What is social selling? How do you define social selling?
Jill: I’m using social selling to redefine what appropriate, good, selling is. I’m using social selling because it’s a hot term. And the part of social selling that’s different from traditional selling is the channels. If you think about how we’ve done research on our buyers, and how we related and connected and engaged with our buyers, and how we ultimately amplified our buyer’s advocacy, that traditionally has been done via meetings, magazines, to advancing to leveraging phone and email and ultimately Web.
So when I was a rep at Salesforce I had the phone as a channel and I had email as a channel and I had website. I didn’t have LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook and so for me I could find out information about the company fairly easily by going to their website. And if they were a public company I could read their annual report and their investor presentations. But the only real information I had about the people in the company were those who were listed on “management” or “team” on the website. Similar to today, the only people on the website are just the most senior level c-suite people.
Those were the challenges
Today I define these Five Pillars of Social Selling:
1. Personal credibility
2. ABC now means Always Be Connecting, and Socially Surrounding
3. Content as Currency
4. Social Listening
So social selling is technology-enabled research, networking, and relationship building. It starts with the sales professional — the sales manager, the sales VP, even the employee – establishing, building, and demonstrating their professional brand. So your social networks that you choose to be on should be optimized for the buyer, not the recruiter. And your LinkedIn profile — instead of screaming QUOTA CRUSHER, EXPERT NEGOTIATOR – it should really speak to the buyer.
So if you’re selling into the HR world it should really resonate with that HR professional that you understand that employee engagement is at an all-time low. And that it’s creating in companies disengaged employees who are not servicing the customer well. They’re not collaborating internally. They’re turning over, and that costs the company a significant amount of money.
Louis: To what degree does this supplement traditional sales methods and to what degree does it replace? Only a small percentage of CEOs are on social media. And maybe a third of the c-suite is on social media. They may have a LinkedIn account but they don’t check it. And if you sent them an InMail they might not even get it, they might not even be set up to receive it. So if you’ve got a lot of senior people in companies who aren’t participating in this social world, then is there anything you can do? Or do you just have to fall back on your traditional sales methods?
Jill: You have to leverage the traditional sales methods. You need to be where your buyers are: offline at events, online in social networks, you have to check all the time. Just today, this guy sent me four emails. He’s the CEO of a start-up company. He sent me four emails. I haven’t responded. Not because I don’t want to. I’m fucking buried. I am just busy. And I told him to tweet. You haven’t gotten a response from me because you’re not communicating with me where I live.
IBM did a CEO study and found that only 16% of the 1,700 CEOs that they surveyed were using social media to connect with customers. And another survey that was done found that 82% of respondents said that they were more likely to trust a brand whose executives engaged in social media, and 77% said that they were more likely to buy from those companies as a result. So I’m with you that the executives aren’t on social, but a lot of them need to be. I’m not saying that every CEO needs to tweet. But more of them need to get into the channel where their customers want to have a relationship with them.
Louis: So what sort of policies do companies have to have in place? This is something that you’ve experienced recently (Jill laughs). And this is probably part of what makes some people at all levels of a company, and even more so at the junior levels, nervous, which is: What can they say and what are the ramifications if they say one bad thing? What kind of policies do companies need to have in place around this?
Jill: I think the most important policy is “use common sense”. Don’t be social stupid. This is a channel that isn’t one to one; it’s one to many. And don’t be an asshole. I am so impressed with the CMO of Mitel, Martyn Etherington. I did two sessions for his team. He said to everyone, about their social media policy, basically use common sense. But he said, “Listen: mistakes are going to be made. And that’s okay. We’re going to get through it. This is new. We’re charting new territory. Mistakes will be made. But it’s okay.” He’s the CMO of a billion dollar-plus public company. That is a brave man. We need more executives like Martyn who not only talk the talk but walk the walk. He is a social executive.
Louis: So, after Eloqua was acquired by Oracle, you signed on to do social selling training for Oracle’s entire sales force. So what did you find were the biggest impediments to traditional reps adopting this method?
Jill: Manager-level understanding and role modeling, setting a proper example, and metrics. The Oracle Direct, the inside sales team, they’re still measured on making 150 cold calls a week. They’re not measured on any social activity. Which is just stupid. So if you’re not measured on social activity, and you’re measured on cold calls, you’re going to spend all of your time making cold calls and faking cold calls. Those reps fake cold calls, they trick the system, because that’s how they’re measured.
Louis: How much time do you think, what percent of time, should reps be spending on social media today?
Jill: It really depends – which is such a classic consultant answer. It always come back to deal with where your fires are, offline, online, all the time. You really need to be where your buyers are. Where they prefer to communicate with you. And it also depends on where you are on your order. If you need to be focused on pipeline progression, and closing deals, and social isn’t going to support that activity, which I think it actually can, then get your ass off of social. Stop tweeting. Focus on what you need to do. I don’t do a call without using social first.
Louis: Is there a tactic or something you found that the reps adopted that they reported back to you, “Jill: this is just the best idea that I ever heard.” Or in the social selling that it was a thing that really got them on board or that they really felt good about?
Jill: I get emails every day, I’m the luckiest girl in the world, this happened every day at Oracle, too. I did a presentation yesterday and I got this email from the CMO this morning and he forwarded me an email from one of the reps that attended the meeting and it said – this would happen to me daily at Oracle multiple times a day, and this really made me feel like I was having an impact. [Pulls up the email] Subject line: Tweetin’ my own horn. “Hi everyone – I wanted to echo the power of Twitter which Jill Rowley discussed yesterday. After the session I sent one of my future advocates, a VP of People, an invite to our Engage 2014 conference. She signed up on Eventbrite within 15 or 20 minutes.” He listened to my presentation yesterday. He immediately implemented my suggestions. And he got an immediate positive response. I get those emails day in and day out.
Louis: Yes, and I look at that statistic that 25 or 35 percent of C-level execs are on social media and some people say, “Well that is just so pathetic.” And I kind of look at it as, Great – now we have a way to reach a third of C-level execs that we didn’t have five years ago.
Jill: Right. And he went on to say, I’m completely sold on using Twitter to compliment my emails. This is not a replacement. And I say that in every meeting. This is another tool in your toolbox to research, network, and build relationships: to earn trust and credibility by demonstrating your subject matter expertise. I also say content is the currency of the modern sales professional.
Louis: So this becomes a merger of sales and marketing
Jill: It absolutely is. The modern sales professional is actually a mini-marketer. I have a modern marketing framework and a social selling framework, and content is in both. Content is the currency of the modern marketer and the modern sales professional. The sales professional uses content to educate, create credibility and trust, inform, and add value. And the content needs to be not just company-branded content. [rapping] I’m down with OPC, you know me, I’m down with Other People’s Content. And I’m down with the third party thought leader/trusted advisor/expert’s content, not just my company’s content.
Louis: It not only builds your reputation to use other people’s content, but it builds your reputation as an honest broker and not just as somebody who’s always saying, “We have the best stuff ever.”
Jill: Oh my god. It’s through the content that I share that people know who I am. Because I share something that’s of value to my network. Those people retweet, reply, favorite, comment. And new people who weren’t in my network start to see it. So people know of me through the content that I share that others find interesting and they reshare it. Content is what has made me popular.
Did you find this interview useful? It and 9 other interviews with sales and marketing leaders are available in this free ebook.